Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Building a Framework for SJE

Chapter 2

Okay, chapter 2 was interesting and fun. I liked hearing the participant quotes the author used, as that made me feel like she knew what she was talking about. She has her own framework that she uses to help her facilitate her SJE sessions. She admits she's made mistakes before, and that her framework evolves as she does. It's separated into several portions. The outermost portion (imagine a rectangle) is based on facilitator awareness and growth. This is an area where we need to be constantly concerned. We grow each day with our observations and actions. We learn what works and what doesn't. We also learn from our participants what works and what doesn't. Something I learned from the recent meeting was that I need to be very careful about how I phrase things, and how I speak. So we're learning something every day and adding to our experiences. This is a good thing, as we become better social justice educators when we learn these lessons.

The inner rectangle is about creating an inclusive learning environment. We have to make the space safe enough that participants feel they can take a risk, and we have to make the space feel like a welcoming atmosphere for them to share things about themselves that are... Deeply personal and risky. People need to feel like their statements will be respected and that people who disagree will do so respectfully. Inside this rectangle, there is a three part session plan or semester plan. The three parts are: 1) A model of oppression, 2) Participant Self Reflection, and 3.) A call to ACTION. I'll devote a paragraph to each of these.

The first part is the model of oppression. This is the subject where things can tend to get over intellectualized. People think that this is necessary, almost. It should be an intellectual exercise in part. But there should also be stories to go with it. Stories are the examples you use to show that this model is correct and not just a fanciful construct. If they are participant stories, that's even better, because those can't be scripted ahead of time. They're real and compelling, and are more believable because of it. This is where students take a risk. They tell the story of what they heard or saw or did, or what was done to them. These are the stories that bring the model to life. You can also use stories from the news media, or from the campus grapevine to "Prove" your theory/model is alive and well.

Next is participant self-reflection. As a participant, I had a hard time with this as subtleties are not something I see well. I don't see connections between things that I think I should see. I felt somewhat ashamed of my privilege at different times as well. Self-reflection is HARD WORK. It's something that can be done both publicly and privately, and I did a fair amount for RAPP. I also do a fair amount for my job as a facilitator. About what went right, and what went wrong. So self-reflection never really stops, it just keeps going.

And finally, the call to action. We had this at the end of the RAPP curriculum. That was the point where we had a gallery walk and saw posters up all over the walls where we could join groups on campus to make a difference ourselves. We could actually go out and DO SOMETHING to help. That was my favorite gallery walk. There were so many opportunities to help, and I wanted to do about half of them. (Like I have the time.) It gives me hope to see how so many people are interested in making a difference. We had a large (well, fairly large) group for my RAPP year. At the very end of the year, there were 25 of us that had hung strong through all the meetings and retreats and such. And it was so wonderful to see everyone, it made my day!!! And now I'm even more involved, which makes me happy. I'm helping others learn about social justice, and I'm asking them to go out and educate their family and friends as to what oppression is really about. It's wonderful to do these activities and feel like I'm making a difference in the lives around me. It's wonderful, and emotional and terrifying, lol. (After all, what happens if I do something wrong?)

Speaking of doing things wrong, we didn't really do anything wrong on Monday night. We were hoping for a bigger turnout, but we only got five people. So we pretty much redid our session plan at the last minute, and only did some of our activities. Then we substituted a guided discussion for the two activities we had planned to do that needed a bigger group. Even with the last minute substitution, we did all right. We ended up having it in the RAPP Office, cause that was cozier, we didn't need all the space, and there were students out in the lounge playing around and having music. We could have done it there anyways, but we chose to move it in the office instead. Our participants were wonderful (thanks to all those who came) and really didn't mind sharing very personal things that they thought and felt. So I'm calling it a big success. (And I'm now much less nervous about the whole facilitation thing. I've got a couple under my belt, and they both went okay, so I'm starting to relax and not be so afraid.)

Hopefully, this finds you all hale and hearty and doing well. I'm happy with the way things are going. Have a good weekend everyone!!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: The Evolution of Social Justice Education and Facilitation

Chapter 1

Okay, here is part 2 of chapter 1. It was interesting, and there's an interesting thing I want to note at the end of this blog about the book in general. But I'm gonna leave that for last. For now, I'm going to take a look at the framework the book writes about. It has three dimensions, or I'd draw it for you! If you look at it at angle so that you can see height, width, and depth, you can see that it's cut into two layers vertically, two layers deep, and three horizontal layers.

I'll talk about the height first. The top layer is broken into six blocks, if you will. All six blocks are the intersection of three sections. The whole top layer is conscious. So, for example the front left block is the intersection of conscious, behaviors, and individual. Each of the six blocks has a different combination of elements in them. The second layer, height-wise, is unconscious. And the bottom left front block is unconscious, behaviors, and individual. Depth wise, we have a front group of six and a back group of six. The front group is behaviors and the back group is attitudes. So for example, the back right bottom block is unconscious, attitudes, and societal. The last group of blocks is the horizontal grouping. There are three blocks across, and they are individual, institutional, and societal. There are a total of twelve possible combinations of these blocks, and each addresses a different type of oppression. We talked about this model in my RAPP group, and I found it fascinating. We even had an activity, led by Brice, where they drew the grid on the floor of conscious and unconscious on one axis, and individual, institutional, and societal. There was also a place to stand if you felt the news article or fact in question was not racist. Then Brice would read the story or fact, and we would all stand in the block or blocks we felt applied to it. (Sometimes, it was very hard to decide.) As we stood there, we listened to a few people give their reasons for where they were standing, and then moved on to the next story or fact. It was a great way for us to use the model, at least partly, and apply it to real life situations.

Of course, this is not the only model. It belongs to R Hardiman and R Griffin. There are many other models, and I'm sure the discussion regarding them is fierce. It has occurred to me that we could do a whole meeting based on the various frameworks out there, with maybe a vote at the end of what the participants think is the most elegant model, the most usable model, and the most applicable model to our situation here at UC. Hmmmm... Now the brain is churning, lol.

The framework that we use to found our social justice education efforts is the Intergoup Dialog Method. (No one told me this, but it seems to fit the best.) It involves content learning, structured interaction, and facilitative guidance. There are four stages: 1) Group Beginnings, 2) Exploring Differences and Commonalities of Experience Across and Within Social Identity Groups, 3) Exploring and Discussing Controversial Issues, and 4) Action Planning and Alliance Building for Creating Change. It seems to me that participants in these groups MUST consider themselves a unit in order to get work done. They must think of what they can achieve together, rather than singly.

The last thing I want to note is that this book often makes me nervous. This is my first position as a facilitator, and while I did well this Monday (it was like pulling teeth at first, but we eventually did all right), I'm still really nervous about the first meeting next week. And while I think some of it is natural nerves (not being all that comfortable speaking in front of people), I think a lot of it is due to trying to keep all the facilitation advice handy in my head. Be impartial, be multipartial, be encouraging, be fair, allow all ideas an equal chance, help participants learn... And then there are the don'ts. Don't agree with any one person or faction. Don't be partial. Don't allow your face to show your emotions. (I have a glass face. Most people can read me as easily as you're reading this.) So I worry about how it's going to go. And the book sometimes makes it worse as there are so many different things they talk about that can go wrong. It is, in a way, like mothers telling the expectant mother horror stories about labor and delivery. I read about how things can go wrong, and I pray I'll remember everything and do a good job. You can all wish me luck!!!

Anyways, that's all from me today, so I hope you all have a good weekend. I'm working tomorrow, and hoping to be very productive as I have a lot to do and a deadline coming up. I'll most likely be working late Tuesday night too, as that is the last day. Mostly, though, I enjoy my work, so it shouldn't be too bad. Y'all have a good one!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: The Evolution of Social Justice Education and Facilitation (Part 1)

Chapter 1

I put a piccy of myself with Ali and Tristen up this week, just so you have something to look at!!! I wanted to have something for you to look at for a change. (I hate having my piccy taken, and Brice loves to take photos. He's always pointing his phone at us. He took one of me and Byron that night too.) Also, this is going to be part 1 of 2. Brice may have sent out an email (I want to say I saw one), but he doesn't remember doing it, and I can't find it. So he chose Chapter 1 today (for the week of October 26 to November first), and I don't think it's fair to ask everyone to read a chapter on Saturday and another chapter for the week of November second. Since there's PLENTY of info in chapter 1, I'm gonna do a part one and a part two for my blog on it.

Anyways, on to Chapter 1. Chapter 1 was actually quite interesting, talking about the roots of the Social Justice Movement and how they intertwined with the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. I've an interest in History, and have enjoyed several classes in the subject, so this part was enjoyable for me. The book talked about how it came about (even before Brown vs The Board of Education in '54) and how it has changed over the years. The book used a term that I personally am uncomfortable with: assimilation. It talks about how educators wanted to put these new students (new being people of color and women) into the groups that already existed on campuses. It also talks of a homogenous society, where people leave behind the customs and language of where they came from and take up new customs and languages to fit in. And in one sense, I think this is a good thing: In the language arena. I believe that all citizens of the USA should learn to speak English. This is my personal belief, and is in no way indicative of how my RAPP colleagues feel. However, I also think that with friends and relatives, these people should be free to speak whatever language they want, be it English or Spanish or an Indian or African dialect. That's my one nod to fitting in. When it comes to leaving behind the customs that brought you here, I'm adamantly against it. I think that where you came from defines a big part of who you are. So this is something I think we should all keep. Follow the traditions your parents and grandparents started. Do Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Diwali every year. Celebrate your holidays and eat your food and follow those traditions that have been given into your safekeeping. So many educators back in the day strived to assimilate people, and I think that's wrong. Plus, every time I hear the word assimilate it reminds me of Star Trek and the Borg, which is just creepy. So it makes me want to have people in my life that follow different traditions. At my co-op job, they had a big Diwali celebration last week. I went down for some of it, and it was awesome. They read a story, then performed a skit of the story, tuned of course to our business and using our software product. There was music and dancing and food and it was awesome. I thought it was so cool of them to have something like that... Earlier in the year, they had an all American picnic lunch with burgers and hot dogs on the grill and things like potato salad and macaroni salad. It was awesome. (I've been really impressed with my company. It's an awesome place to work.) None of my fellow co-ops went down though, and I thought that was sad.

One thing that life has taught me is to be open minded. You never know who will do what. Life is unpredictable, so live every moment of it. Always do your best, and provide an atmosphere for others where they can do THEIR best. Learn about the cultures of others. This country was built on the premise that whiteness WAS a culture (in one way). I say this because all of the traditions of the white immigrants sort of coalesced into one culture. German and Irish and Scotch and English and French and Spanish all mingled. And Americans created some of their OWN traditions as well. But people of color were not accepted in this culture: they didn't fit in, so they were scorned and worse. In being penalized for the color of their skin, or the accent with which they spoke, they were marginalized, kept away from the "mainstream" culture. So many traditions were lost in this culturalization of America. And slavery put paid to many traditions of African cultures. Tribes sold captured prisoners as slaves, and sometimes whole villages were taken as slaves. Their traditions are now gone, lost forever.

One thing I think we need to encourage immigrants of today to do is to keep the old traditions, as well as forging new traditions here. There is no reason Christmas and Hanukkah should not be able to coexist. Follow your religious traditions, and create new traditions with your families, traditions that they can pass down to their children. Because the little things are often what we're made of. The things our parents did for us, the things our grandparents did for us, those things, little though they may be, make up who we are. And that's my sermon on traditions. (Yes, I got WAY off the path of chapter one, but it was an interesting trip, I hope.)

Another thing Chapter 1 said was that the early movements did not really look at the social structures that perpetrated the inequity of education. Racism at that time was INSTITUTIONALIZED, but the movement did not yet question the structures that higher education was built on. Instead, they focused on adding to the curriculum classes that celebrated the differences of other cultures. In this way, they thought that white students would begin to see the value in marginalized students, and would then accept them into their lives and into their culture. This did not happen, and educators realized there must be something more done to achieve equity.

And I'm going to include a quote this week too, that I really think speaks to what the Social Justice Movement really wants to see happen. The words resonated with me so much, that I wanted to share them. They're from a textbook, Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice Sourcebook by Adams, Bell, and Griffin in 1997. Bell said the following :

Social Justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. We envision a society in which individuals are both self-determining (able to develop their full capacities) and interdependent (capable of interacting democratically with others). Social Justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward with others and the society as a whole.

Her words are deeply evocative of a society that I may never see here on earth, but hope my children, or perhaps their children, will see. It will take a lot of hard work, but I believe we can bring this ideal to fruition, one person at a time if necessary.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: When Neutrality Is Not Enough

Chapter 10

Hi there everybody. Welcome back. It's the weekend again, and I'm in the office this weekend. (I wasn't last week. I um... Injured myself. Yeah, that's it. My sister in law and I went to Land of Illusion last Friday, and I walked myself into a lot of pain on Saturday, so I didn't go in to the office last weekend.) I worked from home instead, but this weekend, I'm feeling fine, so I came into the office. It's a gorgeous day out there, so I wish I had my laptop so I could work outside for a while. Anyways, enough of that. On to Chapter 10 of The Art of Effective Facilitation.

It's a good chapter in some ways, and not in others. In some ways, it was a frustrating chapter in that there's nothing to really get ahold of for most of it. Effective multipartiality is both a science and an art. Honestly, I think it's something that you grow into more than learn. The book gave three examples of facilitations, an impartial, partial, and multipartial. Impartial is when you can't get the participants to take risks in being partial. The example used was that of five scenarios. Some participants expressed the idea that the scenarios were UC-Centric. The facilitator thought otherwise, and didn't dig deeper into why these participants thought so. This was impartiality at work. The second example, partiality, was of an exercise where the author indicates that the participants in the facilitation igonored the facilitator's instructions and did their own thing. No one remarked upon this, even though it was a team building experience. (The objective was to count to fifty with each person speaking at least once and no person speaking again before everyone had spoken. You had to do all this with your eyes CLOSED.) There was a group of three males that counted off to fifty, putting the goal (reaching the number fifty) ahead of the process (not speaking again until everyone had had a turn). No one else in the group pointed out this breach in the rules, and the other voices were silenced. The facilitator, feeling triggered, didn't know how to resolve this. (I'm not sure how I would have resolved it myself. Maybe asked for a show of hands of people who had said a number and then gently reminded the participants of the rules? I really don't know.) The facilitator considered this a failure and a debacle for a long time. (I'm not sure if I would be any different, in that respect.) Finally, there was an example of multipartiality. It was a group discussing the prison industrial complex, along with facts and figures regarding the marginalization and mistreatment of minorities. In this discussion, several dominant narratives were introduced. The art of it is knowing when to encourage and/or present the counternarrative. It is giving respect to all beliefs and bringing out the experiences of people who are marginalized so that we see all the sides of an issue and can really discuss the meat of it. The three facilitations were handled very differently, and had very different outcomes. The multipartial experience was the hardest to understand, hence the reason I said I think you grow into it. After doing multiple facilitations, I think you would have a better idea of how to judge the group and bring forth those marginalized viewpoints.

So the question is, "How do we, as social justice educators, come to the point of recognizing when is the right time?" When is the right time is a hard question to answer as every group is different. The dynamics of the group are unique to that group and that session. Even if you get the same group together a week later, or two weeks later, they're not in the same mood they were in last time, and that makes for differences. I think this is generally true of all groups, even small groups that get together day after day. Each person is in a differnt place each day, not so much in their mood, but in their learning and in their process. On Monday, I may be grumpy. (I got to sleep in over the weekend, and now I can't.) On Tuesday, I could be happy. Wednesday I could be troubled. Even if I'M grumpy Monday through Friday, my co-workers moods will change as the week goes on. So each group has a different dynamic. You can never count on having the same people say the same things. So a skill that is important if you want to be a multipartial facilitator is to read the crowd, and be able to determine what they need to progress along the path of their learning at any moment. You have to know the right time to introduce new ideas or encourage participants to speak up. And your participants have to be brave enough to speak out and share feelings that are sometimes deeply personal. (And deeply rooted, too. We have to remember that we are challenging, or having others challenge, ideas that have been around for our participants since they were in diapers sometimes. We begin to learn sterotypes in early childhood, and sometimes, participants don't want to admit that mom or dad may not have had the right of it. These are emotional times for participants, and we have to let them learn from each other as much or as little as they want.)

Since we encourage our participants to share deeply held personal beliefs and incredibly moving stories, we need to make sure everyone is respected for what they bring to the table. We all have a unique viewpoint, brought about by our life experiences to date. We all learn different lessons at different times. Sometimes, we learn those lessons the hard way. Sometimes we learn by example what to do or not do. But we all learn at our own rate and in our own time. As the saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink". (Of COURSE it's a male horse, lol.) The same is true of participants. Some of us have to take a huge risk to change our opinions. It is a difficult thing to do: admit something we may have taken on faith for YEARS is wrong. It's a hard thing to recognize that we are privileged because of our gender or our skin color or our religion or whatever identity it is. It's hard to admit our world view is skewed. We cherish those lessons we learned in early childhood, and don't want to let them go. It's a risk to have that conversation. You don't want to learn that you have been privileged while you didn't even know it. You don't want to admit you've been blind, or that you don't see clearly. Sometimes, we fight harder for those things we have learned that make the least amount of sense, and we don't even know why we're fighting it.

Facilitation is an emotional process, and participants will be emotional about their learning in many cases. It's a painful process, to realize you've been a part of marginalizing others your whole life, without doing anything overtly oppressive. I know for a fact that I learned this lesson the hard way. I then felt guilty about it for weeks. I felt like I had done something wrong, when I was simply oblivious. These are extremely difficult realizations to come to, and very personal as well. Deep seated needs and beliefs are at play. There is a reason that these conversations are so difficult to have: they're intensely personal, and difficult for all involved. We have to trust others to see where we are in our own journey and respect us for what we bring to the table.

I see clearly how difficult multipartiality must be to achieve. It's another step in the process, but I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to judge people adequately enough to reach it. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and be brutally honest with people. In other words, don't ask my opinion of something unless you really want it. You're likely to get an earful. Unfortunately, my face is as easy to read as my words. I worry about facilitation with that face. It gives me away every time, sigh... This is one of the challenges Ali and I face as cofacilitators. We have to get used to each other's style and viewpoints. Our identities are opposite in many ways, and that is a good thing, in my opinion. We can learn from each other, and from the participants that we facilitate, which is a very good thing. What we learn from our endeavors depends solely on our desire to learn and our participants and each other as the sources of knowledge. I hope to learn much this year, about both leading and about social justice. I also hope to help others learn in any way I can.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Evolution of a Social Justice Educator's Professional Identity

Chapter 3

Okay, this week we read chapter three. It wasn't as interesting as I thought it would be, which was a disappointment. I did find some nuggets that will help me in developing myself as a social justice educator. One of the first things the author said was that she struggles with her identity as a social justice educator. And that made me feel so much better, because I struggle with my identity as a social justice educator too. I just feel like I don't know enough. There's so much to learn, and I don't nearly feel like I know what to be doing yet. It's much easier to teach one person at a time, I think, than to take on a whole group. There are so many pitfalls that way... And what happens when one person pisses another person off? Do we let them be angry at each other, and say mean things, do we try to control the discussion, what happens when we as facilitators get pissed off? I feel like a newborn when it comes to facilitation, and it makes me nervous.

Another thing I realized is that when people get emotional in this type of setting (during a workshop or meeting), it can sometimes be a beneficial thing. But it can also create an adversarial relationship between two people or two groups. This is especially difficult when someone gets angry. In most groups, this anger finds a target in someone of another group identity. For example, the black man may be angry with the white man who has just struggled to admit he has been oppressive before. Or the black woman may be angry with the black man who has just discovered that he thinks women are the weaker sex. (It's amazing the things you can realize during a training, workshop, or meeting. It was hard for me to realize that by not figting oppression where I found it, I was contributing to the status quo.) So in some ways, emotions (even anger) can be a good thing. In other ways, not so much. And the difference is in the people involved in the workshop. A statement in one workshop could be completely unchallenged, where with another group of participants, it could be like setting gasoline on fire.

One other thing I think is important. The author brought up a very interesting point. Every culture seems to think their standards for non verbal communication are universal. But they aren't. In the US, we make eye contact a lot with our bosses and coworkers. In Asian countries, this would be considered an insult. So when an American boss meets her Asian counterpart, she thinks he is untrustworthy because Asians do not make direct eye contact. And the Asian feels insulted that the American keeps trying to make eye contact. Neither is true, but the PERCEPTION is really all that matters. The Asian goes back to his colleagues and tells how rude the American was, while the American goes back to her colleagues and says the Asian was untrustworthy. In our communications across differences, it is best to talk about these types of things. If someone of another culture is speaking and says something verbally offensive or whose actions are offensive, it's best to ask if they know that what they said/asked/acted is offensive to you. It's hard to ask that type of question though. Or, if the person is drawing away and not wanting to talk to you any longer, maybe you can ask if you've offended them somehow. If we reach out instead of pulling back, we can learn about our neighbors in ways that empowers them - and us - to be better global citizens.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Reflections on an article: Reflections On Our Practice As Social Justice

Reflections On Our Practice As Social Justice: Educators: How Far We Have Come, How Far We Need To Go

This was a very interesting article. It followed the author's social justice education efforts down through the years (I see some parallels, but I have the benefit of MUCH more information) to the present, and then she looks at the things that may need to happen at other times to move forward. It was interesting to look at the evolution of social justice education from a single practitioner's standpoint, as it gave me some insights into ideas that I hold that need to change (the aforementioned inability to see my whiteness and privilege being one of them, of course). I liked seeing that the author made mistakes and did things wrong. It helps me to know that because I'm sure I'll make a few mistakes and I may do things wrong. Knowing up front that it probably WILL happen, and more than once, helps me to turn a mistake into a learning experience for both myself and my co-facilitator, as well as our participants for that day. I'm not, by any means, an expert on social justice education. And I have no problem with others learning from my mistakes. (After all, that's what they're for. To TEACH you something.)

I know that Kathy is one of Rebecca's heroes, and I was very interested in what she had to say. I actually learned a lot. But the key idea that I seized on from the article was the intersectionality of our identities and how this intersection drives us. I did quite a lot of thinking about this over the last couple of nights, and I'd like to share some of my ruminations with you. The first is that two people may share almost all of their identities. But that doesn't mean their identities affect them in the same way. It also doesn't mean that their identities INTERSECT in the same way. We all deal with this intersection differently. My mom and I are very alike in our identities, but VERY different in how we treat the world. We're both middle class white women who identify as cisgender, heterosexual, and Roman Catholic. We both spend a lot of time working. We enjoy a lot of the same leisure activities, and family is very important to both of us. But the way these identities intersect is totally different. She allows her judgments of people to color how she treats them, whereas I do not. I've often said I don't see color, creed, race, gender, etc... By this I mean I'm not making judgments on people because of these things. I accept people as they are, and am always looking for the good in them. (I can find good in most people, of some sort.) She looks for the bad. I accept that different people bring different things to the table. She thinks customs from other countries are weird or odd. So the fact that our identities are similar has NO EFFECT on how we interpret those identities and how we act them out.

And the intersectionality is sooooooooo fluid. In some situations, two of my identities interact in one way, but in another situation they may act in an opposite way. To me, this means that this intersectionality is dynamic and can change from situation to situation. When I started reading this article, it was in my head that my identities react to each other in a static way. (By static I mean unchanging.) But then I started reflecting and realized how easy it is to change the way this intersectionality works. One or two words different in what someone says to me, and I may have a completely different reaction to the sentence. My boss emphasized ambiguity once. He said look for ambiguity in tasks and refine them till there isn't any. He used a simple statement to prove his point: Tom didn't say Harry stole his wallet. But how many meanings can this statement have? I see eight. TOM didn't say Harry stole his wallet. (George did.) Tom DIDN'T say Harry stole his wallet. Tom didn't SAY Harry stole his wallet. (He implied it.) Tom didn't say HARRY stole his wallet. (He said George stole his wallet.) Tom didn't say Harry STOLE his wallet. (Tom lost it, and Harry found it.) Tom didn't say Harry stole HIS wallet. (He said Harry stole George's wallet.) Tom didn't say Harry stole his WALLET. (He said he stole his money clip.) So you can see how delicate words can be. We could react to the same sentence in very different ways. And a one or two word change can make a BIG difference. So we really need to look at how our identities are intersecting in the moment. Are they all involved, or are just a few involved? Are we acting in a triggered state? Do our identities intersect in certain ways around certain people or groups? Do we react to certain identities in certain ways? There are so many questions we can ask here, and if we ask them around different people, we're bound to get different answers to them.

It is my opinion that we all react to the things that happen in our lives based on which identities are intersecting at the time of the event. If our religious id is intersecting with our race id at the time of an event, we'll react differently to that event than we would if our gender id was interacting with our social class status id. And our reactions could be just a few words different, or they could be worlds apart. And I've come to the realization that my identities are what make me defensive or cautious or pedal to the metal. My identities drive me to respond in certain ways. When one is at the forefront, I respond in one way. If another is at the forefront, I respond in another way. I've come to realize my myriad identities need to be recognized as a big part of what drives me. My student identity drives me to get good grades. My employee identity drives me to do the best job I can at work. My white identity drives me to want to tell people what to do. My Roman Catholic identity drives my morals. These are just a few examples. But my identities are what drive me. If I'm in student mode at work, I have a hard time working. If I'm in work mode, I have a much easier time of it. And I've decided if I want to be a GOOD social justice educator, I need to be more conscious of exactly WHAT is driving me at any given moment: a tough task to be sure. I'm frequently oblivious to what is driving me, so becoming more aware is something I'll really have to work at. On the plus side, I do like to be challenged, so that'll make it a good thing for me to do. And so I'd like to challenge my readers (all four of them) to be more conscious of their identities and what is driving them when they interact with the world at large. I may try journaling, or maybe some brainstorming to see if I can get a better handle on this. Good luck to you in doing the same. (And feel free to leave a comment on this post for what you want to try and how you think it will work out for you.)

The Art of Effective Facilitation: From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces

Chapter 8

Chapter 8 hit home in some ways for me, because I have been wrestling with the idea of safe spaces in social justice education. I don't see how to both have an honest conversation where everyone can participate and also have a safe space. This is not to say that I don't think there should be ground rules. I think there should. However, I just don't see any way to create a space that is both safe and challenging for participants. These conversations about isms are SUPPOSED to be uncomfortable in some ways. And safe spaces don't allow for substantial discomfort. So how do the authors of this week's chapter bring these two ideas to bear on each other?

They talk about creating instead Brave Spaces, where participants can challenge each other (respectuflly) and really have those conversations about power and privilege. One thing the author pointed out that I don't think everyone remembers is that the discussions we have as a part of this come from our own dominant and subordinated identities. Each of us has both, and so each of us needs to think a bit more on what we're doing.Why are we resistent to having a certain conversation? Are we too tired to formulate our thoughts? Are we not sure what our opinion is? Are we resistent because the new idea introduced threatens our world view? If we want to jump into a conversation we can ask ourselves about that too. Why are we so eager to be heard? Are we defending our power and privilege? Are we eager to share with others so they can learn from us, or do we want to prove our point and preserve the status quo? These are all questions we need to ask when we decide when to participate and when not to participate.

I think, and this is just my opinion, that we NEED to challenge ourselves and our world view. If we don't, we're not learning much. This is something that is hard for me to do. I have this problem where I don't actually notice my whiteness and privilege. I KNOW I have it when I think about it, but it rarely crosses my mind. (One of my goals this year is to make myself more aware of my privilege and use it to further my social justice aims.) I need to challenge this view that I have that hard work pays off because it doesn't always, dependant on your group (dominant or subordinated). I'm not sure where this part of my world view comes from. It could come from the same place my privilege comes from. It may also come from my idealist nature. (That's the way the world SHOULD work, so it must work that way.) I'm having a hard time placing it. I want to say it's my idealism at work, but it could easily be my privilege since I don't tend to notice it.

Those are some of my takeaways from this chapter, and I've expanded on them quite a bit this week. I had several hours of tossing and turning last night (I had a bad asthma day yesterday, and so, since struggling to breathe wears me out, I slept most of the day. Then I went to bed at my normal time last night and woke up at three am wide awake. So I used the time to read some of the chapter and reflect on it while I tried to go back to sleep.), so I got quite a lot done in the middle of the night. (It's about the only time I HAVE for reflection.) Anyways, I'll be blogging again in a few minutes about an article Brice found and wanted us to share our thoughts on, so I'm gonna post this, then get to work on the next thing.